Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against a competitor alleging that it has orchestrated “an unlawful and malicious campaign” against Ocean Spray designed to damage the company’s reputation, frustrate its relationships with customers and undermine its dealings with grower-owners and other cranberry growers in the industry. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. v. Decas Cranberry Prods., Inc., No. 10-11288 (D. Mass., filed August 2, 2010). According to the complaint, the defendants have falsely accused Ocean Spray of creating “a significant oversupply of cranberries” in the industry and contributing to that surplus by reducing the amount of cranberries in its products. Ocean Spray details the various means the defendant has used to disseminate its “smear campaign,” including letters to growers, blog posts, and a letter to the U.S. Attorney General seeking an investigation of Ocean Spray.

Ocean Spray also alleges that the defendant developed a “false and misleading social media campaign” to accuse the company of mislabeling its Choice® product, a lower-cost alternative for industrial customers, and harming the cranberry industry by selling a product that takes fewer barrels of cranberries to create. This campaign allegedly involved a website, YouTube® video, Facebook® page, and a “fictitious Facebook account in the name of ‘Michele Young.’” All of this activity was purportedly undertaken to convince the public and Ocean Spray’s growers that the “Scamberry.org” site “was sponsored by an independent consumer advocacy group.”

The complaint alleges violation of the Agricultural Fair Practices Act (improper offer of inducement, false statements about violating the law, false statements about harming the industry, conspiracy), violation of the Lanham Act (false statements about harming the industry, consumer/grower deception), and violation of the Massachusetts Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (false statements about harming the industry, consumer/grower deception). Ocean Spray seeks a declaration that the defendant has violated these laws, an injunction to stop the conduct, damages “in an amount to be determined and multiplied, to the extent provided by law,” costs, and attorney’s fees.

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